Crossways Concepts

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Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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The Bible Shouldn't Be Read Alone

God has this way of letting us know when we wander off in the wrong direction.  One day recently, I was idly thinking about my life and Scripture.  I thought, with a bit of self-pity, that I'll probably never get a chance to study Biblical Greek, in spite of my long-standing interest in the subject.

At this point the Holy Spirit intervened and reminded me that He equips me with everything that I need to study the Bible.  Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26)
It is absolutely wonderful to consider that we have this piece of God inside us.  It is even more wonderful and amazing to realize that He is there to guide and teach us.  This is God, the almighty Creator of the entire universe – He loves me enough to place His Spirit inside me to try to keep me on track.

For many Christians, this Holy Spirit inside them is a very abstract idea, something they have been told, but they can't really comprehend.  The Holy Spirit was never intended to be an abstract idea.  God's plan is that we would live in active dialogue and partnership with the Spirit inside us.  We were never intended to face life alone.  We were never intended to navigate the virtual minefield of the world just using our limited senses and our judgment. 

The Holy Spirit is our guide.  But, He doesn't just guide us through the world, He also guides us through our spiritual growth.  When we were kids growing up, we needed our parents to guide us in how to be an adult, and now as we are seeking to grow up in Christ, we still need a guide.  While other people can provide some guidance, everybody's experience of growing up in Christ is a little different.  We need a guide that knows our heart.  God recognizes this need and has supplied the Holy Spirit to fill it.

So, when we open up the Scripture, the Holy Spirit is there to help us find the truths that we need.  The problem with this wonderful plan of God's is the way we often approach God's word.  So frequently, we approach the Bible the same way we approach most things in our life, in a hurry.  To approach God's precious word in a hurry is like getting a meal prepared by the greatest chef in the world and just wolfing it down like it is something we are being forced to eat.  God's Scripture is meant to be savored.

I view the Scripture as a method of communication with God.  Some people refer to the Bible as God's love letter to us.  And while it is that,when it is combined with the Holy Spirit guiding us through it, it becomes so much more than words on a page.  Suddenly, what should work like a regular book is functioning more like a telephone.  God's word enhanced by His spirit speaks allows communication that goes way beyond what any other written word can accomplish.  It speaks directly to our heart, exactly what we need for today.

Most Christians have had the experience of re-reading some familiar passage of Scripture only to see something there they have never seen before, something so completely obvious that they are half convinced that it has been added since they last read the passage.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit.  He feeds us what we need, as we need it, and not before.

But this is just an obvious and common action of the Holy Spirit.  That is not all He does for us with the Scripture.  As the verse we looked at from John said, the Holy Spirit will “teach you all things.”  The place where we are most receptive to the teachings of the Holy Spirit are while we are reading His Word.

I have heard many people claim that the Bible is too difficult to understand.  The Bible can be tough, however, that is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  If we pray and ask Him to guide us, then allow Him time to do His job, then the Bible will become a source for important truths to be revealed to you.  This isn't saying that you are suddenly going to become a Bible scholar and every word will make perfect sense, but that God will use His word to speak truth to your heart.

I do not believe that we are meant to understand every word in the Bible.  But, everywhere that God wants us to understand, His Spirit will reveal – if we are listening.  However, if we approach God's word in the wrong way, then we will miss out entirely on what He wants to reveal to us.  
Here are a few guidelines of how to approach the Word and the Spirit:

  • Don't approach the Lord with preconceived goals – If you come into this time planning on reading 3 specific chapters in the next 10 minutes, then you might be so focused on that goal that you totally miss out on what He has for you.
  • Focus on Him prior to reading – Go to Him in prayer, praise Him for who He is.  This practice will get your mind directed and aligned with the Lord.
  • Submit your Bible time to Him – Make this time about Him, not you, not your perceived needs, not your goals.  Make this His time to lead and direct as He wants.
  • Ask Him to help – I like to ask the Lord what He wants me to read, then whatever comes into my mind, I read.  If nothing comes to my mind then I continue with my planned reading.  Even when I default to my planned reading, I still ask Him to speak to my mind and heart through the Scripture.
  • Read with an open heart – Read everything with full anticipation and expectation of important things being revealed to you.  Listen as you read.
  • Respond to what you read – As you read, the Lord may bring some other Scripture to your mind.  Don't be so focused on the page in front of you that you can't take a Spirit-directed side-trip.  If something “jumps out to you”, but you don't know what it means for you, then stop and pray about it, with listening.  I have found things in Scripture that I needed to meditate on for days (off and on, not literally sitting in prayer for days) before the Lord brought a feeling of resolution to my mind.
  • Be patient – The Lord doesn't reveal life-changing truths every time you pick up the Bible, but when you are open to Him, it opens those lines of communication.
  • Be thankful – Be appreciative to the Lord for His word, written and otherwise.
We are so fortunate to have the Holy Spirit living inside us to guide and direct us.  The Bible is an amazing document, by itself.  When combined with the Holy Spirit, the bible become a powerful means of communication between us and God.  This communication is personal, it isn't just a word put out there for everybody, it is specific for the “right now” in our lives.  It is precisely what we need today and every day.

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